''The Return of the King'' proved Lord of the Lucite on Saturday at the 9th annual Critics' Choice Awards. The ceremony saw the ''Lord of the Rings'' finale win four prizes, including Best Picture, Best Director (Peter Jackson), Best Acting Ensemble, and Best Score (Howard Shore). Presented by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the night may have been a harbinger of a hobbit-fest at the Academy Awards; the BFCA has correctly predicted the last four Best Picture Oscar winners.
''Mystic River'' added to its momentum with a Best Supporting Actor prize for Tim Robbins and a Best Actor award for Sean Penn. Penn boosted his chances for a podium appearance at the Oscars, not just by winning, but also by simply showing up and accepting his prize graciously. Penn also presented a lifetime achievement award to ''Mystic'' director Clint Eastwood, who used his acceptance speech to praise his ''Mystic'' collaborators.
Other acting prizes went to Charlize Theron (Best Actress for ''Monster''), Renée Zellweger (Best Supporting Actress for ''Cold Mountain''), and Keisha Castle-Hughes (Best Young Actor/Actress, for ''Whale Rider''). Screenwriting honors went to Jim Sheridan and daughters Kirsten and Naomi for the autobiographical immigrant-family drama ''In America.'' Folksmen Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer won Best Song for the title track from ''A Mighty Wind.'' ''Finding Nemo'' was named Best Animated Feature, while Best Family Film (Live Action) went to ''Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.'' The French-Canadian drama ''The Barbarian Invasions'' was Best Foreign Film, while Best Documentary went to ''Capturing the Friedmans.'' ''Angels in America'' was named Best Movie Made for Television.
The ceremony was held at the Beverly Hills Hotel and broadcast on E! Host Eric McCormack seemed not to be kidding when he noted: ''This event is the first of the over 350 award shows that will air in the next six weeks.''